Nicholas Rescher

Nicholas Rescher
Nicholas Rescher

Born in Hagen, Germany, where his father had established a law practice after serving as a German army officer in the First World War (1939–1945), Rescher's family emigrated to the United States in 1938, and he was educated there, receiving his PhD from Princeton University in 1951 at the age of 22.

Since 1961 he has taught at the University of Pittsburgh, where he serves as University Professor of Philosophy and also as vice chairman of the Center for the Philosophy of Science.

He has published more than 300 articles in scholarly journals, has contributed to many encyclopedias and reference works, and has written more than 100 books in various areas of philosophy, including epistemology, metaphysics, value theory and social philosophy, logic, the philosophy of science, and the history of logic.

Moral and Legal Responsibility

Moral and Legal Responsibility
Moral and Legal Responsibility

The term responsibility or one of its variants figures in moral discussion in many different ways. Philosophers have traditionally been especially interested in the concept of moral or personal responsibility. It is with the problems connected with this notion that the following discussion is primarily concerned.

Judgments of Personal Responsibility

F. H. Bradley once claimed that "for practical purposes we need make no distinction between responsibility and liability to punishment." Although it is true that discussions of responsibility have often turned quickly to discussions of blameworthiness and liability to punishment, there is little justification for Bradley's claim.

For responsibility is equally relevant to many other forms of social treatment—among others, praise, reward (including special honors such as honorary degrees or titles), legal punishment, legal liability. And, of course, the topic is intimately related to the theological issue of salvation, the allocation of divine rewards and punishments.

Heinrich Rickert

Heinrich Rickert
Heinrich Rickert

Heinrich Rickert, the German neo-Kantian philosopher, was born in Danzig and received his degree in 1888 from the University of Strasbourg. In 1891 he began lecturing at Freiburg, succeeding Alois Riehl as professor in 1894. In 1916 he went to Heidelberg as successor to Wilhelm Windelband.

Rickert belonged to the southwestern school of neoKantianism. His main efforts were devoted to a study of the logical and epistemological foundations of the natural sciences and to the historical disciplines in the hope of arriving at a "unity of reality and values."

He departed from Wilhelm Dilthey in his criticism of Dilthey's subjective approach to the understanding of historical reality and in his attempt to find a set of more objective criteria; his departure from Windelband consisted in rejecting Windelband's separation of natural and historical disciplines and offering instead a theory that considered all reality to be historical.

Paul Ricoeur

Paul Ricoeur
Paul Ricoeur

Paul Ricoeur is widely regarded as among the most important French philosophers of the twentieth century. He had contributed to most of the major philosophical movements from the 1940s to the present, including existentialism, phenomenology, hermeneutics, structuralism, critical theory, narrative theory, philosophy of religion, ethical theory, political philosophy, and philosophy of law.

Ricoeur was a prolific author of twenty-seven books and more than 500 articles as of 2004. His works tend to focus on theories of interpretation and the philosophy of human nature, examining the limits on our ability to understand the world and to know ourselves.

If there is a guiding thread that runs through Ricoeur's career it would be an attempt to develop a philosophical anthropology of human capability, in particular our capacities to act, understand, communicate, and be responsible.

Eugenio Rignano

Eugenio Rignano
Eugenio Rignano

Eugenio Rignano was an Italian positivist philosopher and founder (1907) and lifelong editor of the scientific journal Scientia. Rignano's first works were sociologically oriented, but he later turned to biology and philosophical biology.

His major work, Psicologia del ragionamento (1920), places the activity of memory at the basis of all biological and psychic phenomena. Memory is an activity that, through the specific accumulation of concepts, makes possible the progressive adaptation of the organism to the environment, the formation of instincts and emotions, and, in higher organisms, of reasoning.

According to Rignano, reasoning is "a series of operations or experiences merely thought out simply"; in other words, a series of operations performed in imagination. The results of these operations are also imagined and are assumed as the conclusions of the reasoning itself.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke

The German poet Rainer Maria (René) Rilke was born in Prague, the son of a minor railway official. His mother, who was of upper-middle-class origin, encouraged him in his early ambition to become a poet. The years 1886–1891, which Rilke spent at military academies in Moravia and Austria, had a traumatic effect on him, and not until 1920 was he able to come to terms with his unhappy childhood and family background.

His first volume of poetry, Leben und Lieder, appeared in Prague in 1895. Desultory studies, mainly in the history of art, at the universities of Prague, Munich, and Berlin were followed by two journeys to Russia in 1899 and 1900 in the company of Lou Andreas-Salomé, a German-Russian to whom Friedrich Nietzsche had proposed marriage and who later became a follower and friend of Sigmund Freud.

During the second of these journeys he met Lev Tolstoy. On his return Rilke joined an art colony in Worpswede near Bremen, and early in 1901 he married the sculptress Clara Westhoff, one of its members. They had a daughter, but the short-lived marriage was only an interlude in Rilke's essentially solitary and unsettled life.

Jean-Baptiste-René Robinet

Jean-Baptiste-René Robinet
Jean-Baptiste-René Robinet

Jean-Baptiste-René Robinet, the French littérateur and speculative philosopher, was born in Rennes. He started to become a Jesuit, but withdrew from the order and went to Holland to devote himself to letters.

There he published his principal work, De la nature (4 vols., Amsterdam, 1761–1768), and in 1768, Considérations philosophiques de la gradation naturelle des formes de l'être, ou les Essais de la nature qui apprend à faire l'homme (2 vols., Amsterdam and Paris).

He eked out an existence by hackwork, translating English novels and giving English lessons. He became embroiled with Voltaire by selling the manuscript of Lettres secrétes for publication without Voltaire's permission. He went to Paris in 1778 when he was made royal censor and secretary to one of the king's ministers.

Jacques Rohault

Jacques Rohault
Jacques Rohault

Jacques Rohault was a mechanistic Cartesian experimental physicist. He was born in Amiens, France, and earned his MA in Paris in 1641. There, he became Claude Clerselier's Cartesian disciple and son-in-law. He was Pierre-Sylvain Régis's teacher and converted him to Cartesianism.

In the 1650s Rohault was a private tutor in Paris, and his "Cartesian Wednesday" evening lectures, complete with laboratory table demonstrations, were attended by many members of the noble class, women as well as men, and did a great deal toward popularizing Cartesianism.

His Traite de physique (Paris, 1671) was a standard text for nearly fifty years. John Clarke and Samuel Clarke, rather than writing a Newtonian physics, translated Rohault's work into Latin (1697) and English (1723) and added Newtonian footnotes to correct Rohault's Cartesian mistakes.

Romanticism

Romanticism
Romanticism

"Romanticism" and "romantic" are protean words, the despair of a rigorous semanticist. They designate a generally accepted period, especially in literature and the arts, of Western cultural history, roughly from the late eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century.

They embrace a cluster or syndrome of ideas about the true, the good, the beautiful, philosophical ideas both in the popular and in the technical sense, ideas endlessly debated in the last few centuries.

Although the behavioral scientists groping to establish a rigorous classification of human personality generally eschew the word, romantic remains in common use to describe a temperament or personality often, perhaps usually, held to be a constitutional element of an individual and at least in part independent of cultural fashion.

Francisco Romero

Francisco Romero
Francisco Romero

Francisco Romero, the Argentine philosopher of transcendence, was born in Seville, Spain, but moved to Argentina as a child. After military and literary careers he turned to philosophy, joining the faculty of the University of Buenos Aires in 1928 and of La Plata in 1929.

He renounced his academic posts in 1946 in protest against the government of Juan Perón but resumed them in 1955. Because of his conceptual discipline, scope, originality of thought, and limpid clarity of style, Romero is considered one of the ablest and most satisfying of Latin American philosophers.

The idea of transcendence dominates and unifies Romero's metaphysics and theories of knowledge and values. Transcendence implies at least the diversity achieved by passing beyond a given condition or limit and suggests a universal impetus or agency of such passage, an agency that may be purposive. Opposed to transcendence is immanence, which implies identity and containment within, or return to, a limit.

Karl Roretz

Karl Roretz - Yui Ito
Karl Roretz

Karl Roretz, the Austrian epistemologist, philosopher of culture, and aesthetician, was born at Schloss Breiteneich. He studied law, and later philosophy, at the University of Vienna, receiving his doctorate in 1906 with the dissertation "The Problem of Empathy in Modern Aesthetics."

In 1922 Roretz became a Privatdozent at the university and taught history of modern philosophy until 1938, when he ceased lecturing after the Nazi takeover of Austria. He resumed lecturing in 1945 and continued until his retirement in 1951.

As an epistemologist, Roretz espoused a "critical positivism," a philosophy whose foundation is both scientific and, in Immanuel Kant's sense, criticist. The outstanding features of his thought are critical reflection, skeptical rationality, intellectual honesty, and independence of mind. He rejected dogmatism and unsupported metaphysical speculation. Like Hans Vaihinger, he regarded metaphysical concepts as self-contradictory fictions. Thus, Roretz held, metaphysics lacks any purely logical meaning.

Richard Rorty

Richard Rorty
Richard Rorty

An American philosopher and pragmatist, Rorty is among the most widely discussed and controversial philosophers at the turn of the twenty-first century. A New Yorker by birth, Richard Rorty was educated at the University of Chicago (1946–1952) and at Yale (1952–1956) where he received his doctorate in philosophy.

After brief flirtations with Platonism and the work of A. N. Whitehead, Rorty's more mature interests began to form at the end of his military service in 1958, at which point he began serious study of the philosophers who would later number among his chief influences: Wilfrid Sellars, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger, John Dewey, and W.V. O. Quine.

Early Period

Rorty's early work in analytic philosophy, sometimes thought to represent a completely distinct period, is in fact touched by two themes that resurface throughout his career. The first theme is anti-Cartesianism about the mind and knowledge. In a series of papers written during the 1960s Rorty was the first to develop a subsequently contentious theory in the philosophy of mind—eliminative materialism, which holds that the mind and mental states are theoretical, and hence dispensable, constructions.

Johann Karl Friedrich Rosenkranz

Johann Karl Friedrich Rosenkranz
Johann Karl Friedrich Rosenkranz

Johann Karl Friedrich Rosenkranz, the German Hegelian philosopher, was born in Magdeburg. He entered the University of Berlin in 1824. Although he was to become G. W. F. Hegel's most devoted disciple, Rosenkranz was first drawn to Friedrich Schleiermacher; he heard only an occasional lecture by Hegel and was unimpressed.

He began reading Hegel as a student at Halle in 1826 and the following year came under the influence of Karl Daub (1765–1836), a Hegelian theologian at Heidelberg. As a Privatdozent and extraordinary professor at Halle, Rosenkranz participated actively in the Hegelian circle there. Called to Berlin, he struck up a friendship with Hegel and joined his birthday celebration a few weeks before Hegel died of cholera in 1831.

Rosenkranz himself was stricken almost fatally with the disease, reflecting, as he later reported, that this was carrying discipleship entirely too far. In 1833 he succeeded Johann Friedrich Herbart as professor of philosophy at the University of Königsberg, where he remained until his death except for a brief political career in Berlin during the revolutionary crisis of 1848/1849.

Franz Rosenzweig

Franz Rosenzweig
Franz Rosenzweig

Franz Rosenzweig, the religious existentialist, was born in Cassel, Germany. From 1905 to 1912 he studied natural sciences, modern history (under Friedrich Meinecke), and philosophy (under Heinrich Rickert) at the universities of Göttingen, Munich, Freiburg, and Berlin.

At Berlin he earned a doctor of philosophy degree in 1912 with a dissertation on G. W. F. Hegel's political doctrines; later, he expanded this study. In the fall of 1913, after a spiritual crisis, he turned to religious, especially Judaic, philosophy.

In 1918–1919 he wrote Der Stern der Erlösung (The Star of Redemption), a three-part religio-philosophical system; in 1920 he founded the Freies Jüdisches Lehrhaus (Independent House of Judaic Studies) in Frankfurt.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the philosopher, essayist, and novelist, was born at Geneva. His mother having died a few days after his birth, he was brought up by an aunt and an erratic father who taught him to read through the medium of sentimental novels and Plutarch's Lives.

He had little formal education. After staying for about two years with a country minister at Bossey, he returned to Geneva and lived with an uncle. He was then apprenticed in turn to a notary and an engraver, the latter of whom treated him so brutally that in 1728 he left Geneva to seek his fortune elsewhere.

Rousseau was protected and befriended by Mme. de Warens, a convert to Roman Catholicism, who had left her native canton of Vaud to live at Annecy in Savoy, with financial support from the king of Sardinia and the ecclesiastical authorities. Rousseau's subsequent attachment to her was a decisive factor in his conversion to Roman Catholicism as well as in his emotional development.

Louis Rougier

Louis Rougier
Louis Rougier

Louis Rougier, the French philosopher, was a pupil of Edmond Goblot. Rougier taught philosophy at the universities of Besançon and Caen. In 1935 he organized and presided over the Paris International Congress of Scientific Philosophy, where the leading spokesmen for logical empiricism, at the time little known in France, presented their views in a body.

From the start, Rougier's thought had been marked by the contemporary upheavals in the sciences of physics, mathematics, and logic. To these developments he devoted several of his early books, including La philosophie géométrique d'Henri Poincaré (Paris, 1920), La structure des théories déductives (Paris, 1921), La matiére et l'energie selon la théorie de la relativité et la théorie des quanta (Paris, 1921), and En Marge de Curie, de Carnot et d'Einstein (Paris, 1922).

In his view, the upsets in the sciences reinforced the closely pressed critique which he had directed in his doctoral thesis, Les paralogismes du rationalisme (Paris, 1920), against the theory academic philosophers call "rationalism."

William David Ross

William David Ross - Ikumi Hisamatsu
William David Ross


William David Ross was a British Aristotelian scholar and moral philosopher. Sir David Ross was born in Scotland and was educated at the Royal High School in Edinburgh, Edinburgh University, and Balliol College, Oxford, where he took firsts in classical moderations and "greats." He was a fellow of Merton College from 1900 to 1902, when he was elected a fellow and tutor of Oriel. He was provost of Oriel from 1929 until his resignation in 1947.

Ross was prominent in academic and public life. He was vice-chancellor of Oxford University (1941–1944), pro-vice-chancellor (1944–1947), president of the Classical Association (1932), and president of the British Academy (1936–1940). He was chairman of Council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy continuously since 1940. In 1947 he served as president of the Union Académique Internationale.

Ross was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his work in the ministry of munitions and as a major on the special list during World War I. He was knighted in 1938. During World War II he was a member of the appellate tribunal for conscientious objectors and after the war was honored by the governments of Norway and Poland.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre, French existentialist philosopher and author, was born in Paris where he attended prestigious lycées and then the École Normale Supérieur from 1924 to 1928. After passing his agrégation the following year, he taught in several lycées both in Paris and elsewhere.

In 1933, he succeeded Raymond Aron (1905–1983) as a research stipendiary for a year at the Institut Français in Berlin, where he immersed himself in phenomenology, concentrating on Edmund Husserl but also reading Max Scheler and some Martin Heidegger.

In the years following his return to France, he published several phenomenological works as well as the philosophical novel La nausea (Nausea) (1938) that brought him public recognition. He resumed his teaching till conscripted into the French Army in 1939.

Bertrand Arthur William Russell

Bertrand Arthur William Russell
Bertrand Arthur William Russell

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, the British philosopher, mathematician, and social reformer, was born in Trelleck, Wales. He was the grandson of Lord John Russell, who introduced the Reform Bill of 1832 and later twice served as prime minister under Queen Victoria.

John Stuart Mill, a close friend of Russell’s parents, was his godfather in an informal sense. Russell’s parents died when he was a little child. Both of them had been freethinkers, and his father’s will had provided that he and his brother were to have as their guardians friends of his father’s who shared the latter’s unorthodox opinions.

As the result of litigation the will was set aside by the Court of Chancery and the two boys were placed in the care of their paternal grandparents. Lord John Russell died two years later, and it was the boys’ grandmother who determined the manner of their upbringing.

Leonard James Savage

Leonard James Savage
Leonard James Savage

Leonard James Savage was the most influential Bayesian statistician of the second half of the twentieth century. Born November 20, 1917, in Detroit, Michigan, Savage received his PhD in mathematics at the University of Michigan in 1941.

He then spent a year serving as John von Neumann’s assistant at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where he was exposed to von Neumann’s ideas on game theory and the mathematical modeling of human behavior, topics that became a central focus of Savage’s research.

In his next position at Columbia University’s wartime Statistical Research Group— whose members included such luminaries as Abraham Wald, Milton Friedman, Harold Hotelling, Fredrick Mostler, and Abraham Girshick—Savage developed an interest in statistics and became convinced that the subject should be grounded on a “personalist” conception of probability. After Columbia, Savage went on to hold academic positions at Chicago, Michigan, and Yale.

Friedrich Karl von Savigny

Friedrich Karl von Savigny
Friedrich Karl von Savigny

Friedrich Karl von Savigny, the founder of historical jurisprudence, was born in Frankfurt, Germany, into a family that had moved there from Lorraine. Left an orphan at thirteen, Savigny was brought up by a friend who educated him in ways that recall the experience of young John Stuart Mill. At seventeen Savigny entered the University of Marburg; after studying at other universities, he returned to Marburg for his doctor’s degree in 1800 and began a long, influential, and distinguished teaching career.

At the age of twenty-four he published Das Recht des Besitzes (The Right of Possession; Giessen, 1804), and in the following year he began to tour libraries in search of manuscripts for his historical work. In 1810 he accepted a teaching post at the newly founded University of Berlin, which he helped organize and where he became rector.

Friedrich Karl von Savigny did much to raise the standards of German universities and to help them achieve a dominant position in the world of scholarship. While teaching, writing, and assisting in the administration of the university until 1842, he also performed judicial tasks, and from 1842 to 1848 he was chancellor of Prussia.

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